LifeLock is our Editor's Choice among all the identity-theft-protection services we reviewed. It offers comprehensive monitoring of your credit score, financial activity and personal information, and provides frequent email and SMS alerts if it detects suspicious activity.
For three months, we tested LifeLock's top-level plan, Ultimate Plus, which costs $29.99 per month. This service offers monthly tri-bureau credit scores and reports, sex-offender-registry reports, file-sharing- network searches, checking- and- savings-account application alerts and $1 million in insurance, which LifeLock calls a "Stolen Funds Replacement."
These are in addition to features offered by lower tiers of LifeLock service, such as address-change verification, black-market-website surveillance, court-records scanning and the $1 million Total Service Guarantee, in which LifeLock promises to spend up to that amount to help you recover from identity theft.
LifeLock also offers a Standard plan that costs $9.99 per month and includes only the LifeLock Identity Alert System, address-change verification, black-market-website surveillance and the $1 million service guarantee. There's also an Advantage plan, which adds court-records scanning, data-breach notifications, single-bureau annual credit reports and scores, fictitious identity monitoring and credit-card, checking- and savings-account activity alerts for $19.99 per month.
On Dec. 17, 2015, LifeLock admitted that, from October 2012 until March 2014, it engaged in deceptive advertising and failed to properly protect its customers' personal information in connection with a 2010 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission. As a result, LifeLock paid $100 million to settle the matter.
Despite this, Tom's Guide stands by its Editor's Choice award for LifeLock Ultimate Plus. We believe it still has the best complement of features, alerts and usability among the six identity-theft protection services we reviewed. We have no reason to believe that LifeLock currently engages in practices that would endanger customer personal data.
LifeLock Ultimate Plus vs. the Competition
Credit Scores and Reports
LifeLock, like all of the identity-theft-protection services except LegalShield ID Premium and ProtectMyID, monitors your monthly credit score with all three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). The service displays your most recent score on the home screen, letting you see your score at a glance when you first log in to the site.
LifeLock uses your TransUnion score by default; a tab at the top of the window lets you view your tri-bureau score. The window also shows the date of the most recent update to your score and how it's changed since the previous update.
Clicking on the window opens a chart that shows how your score has changed month-to-month, as well as an explanation of how to read your score, how your score compares to the rest of the general population and the factors that affect your score. In addition, LifeLock displays recent credit inquiries, along with the address and phone number of the requestor.
Finally, LifeLock features a credit summary for all three credit bureaus that shows the total number of accounts with each bureau, the total balances, the total monthly payments, the number of unsatisfactory and derogatory accounts, and the number of inquiries in the last two years.
Bank Account and Credit Card Monitoring
LifeLock provides comprehensive monitoring of your bank accounts and credit cards. Connecting LifeLock to your account is simple — I just clicked on "Add Account" in the Alerts and Notifications tab, searched for my bank's name (LifeLock also lets you choose from a list of major banks) and entered my login credentials for online banking. LifeLock prompted me to answer additional questions required by the bank's security to complete the connection.
Financial Transaction History
On the Financial Activity page, LifeLock provides a complete transaction history for each account. (This is nearly identical to the transaction history on my bank's website.) By default, LifeLock sends you an alert if you make withdrawals or purchases greater than $100, although you can increase the alert threshold to as much as $25,000. If you believe the activity is fraudulent, you can click on a red "this wasn't me" button in the Alerts and Notifications page and LifeLock will provide instructions on how to dispute the transaction.
Unfortunately, LifeLock's transaction history lagged behind my current spending by as much as five days, which made it less helpful than simply using online banking. More frustratingly, LifeLock became disconnected from my account every two weeks or so when my bank changed security questions, requiring me to sign in again with my login credentials.
Personal Information Monitoring
LifeLock offers fairly comprehensive monitoring of your personal information. The service lets you see any addresses that are associated with your name (an unfamiliar address could be a sign of fraudulent activity) and combs multiple sex-offender databases to ensure that someone hasn't registered using your name and address. LifeLock also lets you know if registered sex offenders are in your neighborhood, although this information is freely accessible through public records.
In addition, LifeLock monitors other personal information, such as your driver's license number, maiden name, insurance cards, phone numbers and home and email addresses. (If you don't have a maiden name or an insurance card, you can check the "I don't have one" box.)
More helpful is Internet Monitoring, which lets you know if any personal information such as your Social Security number, credit-card numbers or passwords are available online. In my case, I received a notification that my email address and one of my passwords were available on a known black-market site. Thanks to this warning, I changed my login credentials on every website that used the old password, potentially heading off an even greater breach of privacy.
Like all of the identity-theft-protection services (with the exception of ProtectMyID and AllClear ID), LifeLock provides rudimentary login security. Logging in to the site requires just your email address and password (which has to be at least nine characters long and contain at least one number and an upper-case letter or a special character). The service may also prompt you to answer security questions, although I was never issued this challenge when I logged into the site.
Of all of the identity-theft-protection services, I received the greatest number of notifications from LifeLock. The service sent me email and SMS alerts (I opted into the latter) when it detected purchases and withdrawals greater than $100, as well as monthly email notifications about my credit score. In addition, I opted to receive SMS alerts and phone calls if LifeLock detected any activity that might have been potentially harmful to my identity.
LifeLock offers a $1 Million Total Service Guarantee, which states that the company will spend up to $1 million on lawyers, investigators and consultants if you're the victim of identity theft while using the service. This isn't insurance, as the money is only used for professional fees. To activate the service, you must notify LifeLock within 90 days of the date you "reasonably should have known" that you were an identity-theft victim.
Since this review was first published in mid-2015, LifeLock has added a tradtional insurance policy, and will reimburse users of LifeLock Ultimate Plus up to $1 million to compensate for funds stolen as a result of identity theft. LifeLock Advantage customers gets up to $100,000 of coverage, and LifeLock Standard users are covered for only $25,000. All tiers are eligible, however, for the $1 million Total Service Guarantee.
Overall, LifeLock Ultimate Plus proved to be the best identity-theft-protection service we tested. The service provides detailed monthly reports, email and SMS alerts, and comprehensive monitoring of financial activity and personal information. Among all the identity-theft-protection services, only LifeLock and LegalShield ID Premium alerted me that my email address and one of my passwords had been compromised on a black-market website.
Of course, such excellent protection comes at a steep price. LifeLock Ultimate Plus costs $29.99 per month, making it the most expensive of the identity-theft-protection services we reviewed. For that price, we would have appreciated the inclusion of a few credit-analysis tools, such as those offered by Identity Guard and IdentityForce, or tighter login security.
Nevertheless, if protecting your identity is your top concern, LifeLock is easily the best choice. We recommend the top-tier plan, Ultimate Plus, as it offers important protections — such as monthly credit reports and scores from all three credit bureaus — that the lower tiers lack.
Credit score monitoring: Excellent
Financial activity monitoring: Excellent
Personal information monitoring: Excellent
Alerts and notifications: Frequent
Tools and utilities: None
Login Security: Poor
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